Initially wanting to open a ski store in Baton Rouge after organizing LSU’s very first ski trip in the ‘60s, Michael Matthews’ father quickly realized that the market for ski apparel and equipment in Louisiana wouldn’t last long. Instead, he opted to open up a store that serviced all things outdoors, from camping and fishing equipment to apparel and accessories. However, keeping the passion he had for organizing trips, Matthew’s father included ski trips into the mix. Thus, The Backpacker was born. After his retirement in the mid-2000s, Michael—freshly out of college—stepped up to take his father’s place as Chief Adventure Officer. Being a business owner at 23 years old was certainly a challenge for Michael, but once he got into the swing of things, The Backpacker flourished. After acquiring the business, he opened up a second store in Lafayette and is currently in the process of opening a third storefront in Mandeville. In this episode, Michael talks about the history of the iconic Backpacker Van, the best places to ski, and Patty-G decides he’s falling for The Backpacker!
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Sponsors: Fayala Real Estate, Gov’t Taco, Horizon Financial Group, Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge, & Lake Men’s Health Clinic
Patty-G Wardrobe by: McLavy LTD
The Patty-G Show Website: https://thepattygshow.com
The Backpacker’s Website: https://backpackeroutdoors.com/
Hey everybody. Welcome to The Patty-G show. I’m your host Patty G. We are here on-site at The Backpacker location on Jefferson. I’m here with Michael Matthews, the owner of The Backpacker, I’m excited to hear his story of how they got started and his involvement with it. Taking it over from his pops and just all things outdoors Adventure related and everything they’ve got going on. On. But before we get to that want to give a big wonderful shout-out and thank you to the amazing folks that bring you this show each and every week Gov’t Taco, Falaya Real Estate, Horizon Financial Group, Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge, Lake Men’s Health Center. And you know, the outfit of the day is always brought to you by McLavy LTD.
It. Without further Ado, Michael. Welcome to the show. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. Thank you for hosting us in your Baton Rouge location. This is this is quite a setup. This is a good vibe. You got going in here. Thanks. Yeah, we’re proud of it. I’m excited to learn a lot more about what The Backpacker is and does and what y’all do. So for starters who are you and what the heck do you do? I think a few years ago the guys around here kind of started to call me, I think Chief Adventure officer. So I kind of oversee All the aspects of this company. We have a travel company and we have a, the retail side of the business and were most well known for our retail businesses. But, you know, we kind of make sure that our customers are getting the products that they need and that we’re seeing the return and protecting the jobs of our employees. So, how did we get here? What is the origin story of The Backpacker?
So it’s a ah. You know this business is almost fifty years old. My um, Dad was at a student LSU when he was asked by the ah. When he was working at the LSU Union was asked by. And this is in the late sixty S to her Snell shoes, ski trip. Ah are not hosted but organizing LSU ski trip and he had never been skiing in his life. What qualifications did he have to be asked to do it? Not many. Ah. But he he, you know, he never he never backs down to a challenge. So he organized. Ah. Lsu’s first ski trip in the late. Sixty S. And on buses. Alto Red River? New Mexico. And um, after that, he kind of decided that, you know he could do this.
Organize the ski trip. So he started doing ski trips on his own throughout the into college. And even after he graduated college, he was still hosting ski trips for LSU, students and young adults, and he found himself, eventually ordering thermal underwear, and Scotchgard and reselling it to his customers to get prepared for skiing. So put on this thermal underwear, then put your jeans on over it and then cover your jeans with Scotchgard and he mark it up and sell it to him and he knew he couldn’t open ask. Peace Keith shop in Louisiana. So he opened up an outdoor store and what uh on chime Street and what’s currently the Highland Road coffees location, okay? I didn’t know that was so that was the first location on The Backpacker. Yeah, that was the first store. Okay. So and I’ll fast forward to
The 80s, he bought this, he built this building and, and then, you know, of all from there and fast forward to the mid 2000s. He was retiring and I had bought it from them and that’s kind of where we are now. I gotcha. So, the mid-2000s you came in and were like, I want to take this over or what’s kind of your background. How did you get involved? I was at LSU, I was majoring in finance and I’ve been around the business I’d been helping. With some ski trip sales and organization. I’ve been helping with some inventory and some buying and things like that. And I took a pause from all that to kind of explore the corporate world and worked at Shaw Group for a little while leading up to Hurricane Katrina. We all, you know, if you’re in college at LSU during Katrina when that hit, it’s kind of a big milestone of things that changed him Baton Rouge. And so,
When I was working in shell group, he had an opportunity, um, that to basically sell the business. And ah, he is kinda like, well, um, I’m seriously considering this. So if you’re interested, now’s the time to speak up. So I kind of ah, said, sure, well, you know, corporate world will always be there. So let me. Ah. Take a step back into it full-time and see what I can do. So I finish my degree at LSU. And two months after I finished my degree, I signed the papers in both the business from two months. Yeah. So ah. Yeah. It was. Ah. It was a it was a busy busy time. So I was twenty three and I bought the business from them and we open the lab. And actually about a year later, he retired completely. Okay. So you growing up? Was there ever I’m going? I’m always curious to hear the the growing upside of an entrepreneur household. So with him owning this business since the eighties. What?
What was that like growing up in that atmosphere of a dado need a whole store and a whole business. I mean, I don’t know any other way around it, you know, I don’t know any other lifestyle to it. So I mean it was I can’t imagine it being too much different than other Families other than other than the fact that, you know, we had access to some outdoor things that we may not have had access to. Otherwise, my dad was always excited about taking us to do fun stuff in the outdoors, he was still had this ski travel business, was still very big part of the business. So we would go on the ski trips as a family and and have that, you know, we were fortunate fortunate enough to be able to travel with the Travel company. So we got to do a lot of that stuff and you know, my dad was home every night and you know it was never
I never felt like it was a overbearing workload or anything like that, if that’s kind of the question that you’re asking. Yeah, like, was it, you know, where their stressful dinner conversations that were had, you know, because it’s, I grew up in a family business as well, my parents own an industrial plumbing company, okay? So getting that environment of you were always are when you turn 16 or you turn 18, you’re going to come and work for the family business. Was that kind of the vibe around y’all’s house, not really. I mean, we had that option. Oh, and there was some areas where we would come in. My dad had a small store when I was in college or when I was in high school, my dad had a small store on Government Street here in that shopping center, where government Taco currently is okay. And that government Taco location was actually a hockey store that he in the 90s rollerblading was a big deal and we had a Baton Rouge even had a hockey team called the kingfish,
And so he kind of had he decided to break out that side of this business into his own store. And so when I was in high school, I was actually helping manage that store a little bit in support of, you know, just kind of given help out over there and close. Run the books. That kind of thing, um. But that was kind of all we did. But I had other high school jobs as well. It was never like this is what you need to do, which I feel like as a as a parent. You always kind of want them to know. Not necessarily. The family business. Maybe a safety net. But like it’s always there, however, go out and get that outside world experience because maybe if they you do want to come back, you can bring in some valuable information. Yeah. Um quota. I was probably too young to bring in any information worth value. But ah, you know. I think that. Um.
We it was never a super high pressure situation where it was like, you need to be in the business. You need to be helping especially coming in at 23. That’s a pretty young age to purchase an existing business. Even at even with it being a family business. I mean, at 23, I’m sure you had a lot of people looking but wait, you’re the, you’re the owner. Yeah, it was a little bit surreal. I didn’t really think of myself as that. It took me years for me to kind of come to terms with the fact that part of, I mean, part of his I didn’t have the financing to buy the business. It was a it was a deal that was worked out inside the family but you know, it takes a couple of years, to kind of get that feeling that sense of ownership, even though, you know, on paper that you’re the owner, you need a little bit of time to really
Have that sense of ownership that you’re real? That what you’re working on is the fruits of your labor? Oh yeah. I mean, what would those first days as you being in the ca0 on paper? You know it was just business as usual, you know, I was had a lot of energy had a lot of ideas, had a lot of things I wanted to do. So I was just constantly trying to figure out how to execute those as fast as possible. There was some things that I felt like After having worked on the sales floor and worked in the business, I felt like there was some things that we could bring to the table that would help Drive revenue and retain our customers. So we’re able to execute some of that stuff pretty quickly and that helped the business and then we open the Lafayette store. Not long after that. So it was it was a lot going on at once. I mean there was a
It was a trial by fire for sure. And so what was the Laffey at store already slated to become a thing whenever you bought the business? Or were you kind of pushing for an store in Lafayette? It was, um, it was it was slated. We had discussed that we had picked a location. We were negotiating the lease of the time I had excuse me bought the business. So it was. Ah. It was already in the works, but I bought the business knowing that that was going to happen. Okay. So what kind of went into the discussions of we think someone open another store? I mean, when you look at, ah, an entrepreneur’s business. They’re always that first store is easy to manage because you can physically be there. But then going from one to two, what. What was that like? Um. It was a learning experience for both me and the um, team, the existing team that worked for my Dad for so long and for, um, me as an individual well, um.
There is a lot of doing things myself, you know. I was hooking. The kayak trailer up every weekend going to dim it. Taking customers out on the water to go on. Demo days to sell them boats. I was making sure that every event I was at and both stores. So probably the biggest Factor was that all of our events and all the things that I wanted to do for the business x 2, so the world that I had learned of being at the business for every Saturday, every special event on a Saturday. When it x 2 that was when our It didn’t take me long to realize that there’s, this isn’t sustainable. Yeah. And that’s also something that is tough as going from that one or two is like you can’t, if something happens you’re an hour away, right? So I mean how do you build a team that you can trust and know they’re going to run the store with you being away?
It’s, it takes a, it takes a leap of faith, you know, for sure. And it took years for us to figure out what’s the most important things that need to be done. And how do we observe it? How do we check in on that? And how do we, you know, make sure that that’s that it’s being done to our standards. Because if you’re that not there for two weeks, you come back, and this is much closer to the beginning of managing two stores, but you’re going for two weeks, you come back and Floors, haven’t been Wept, the bathrooms have been clean the shirts. Haven’t been folded and nothing’s in size order. All these little things that, you know, as a retailer needs to be done. But you eventually kind of learned how to manage that and you learn how to
Retain the people that can take care of those things. Yeah. And it goes to the importance of training on the job both whenever you’re in the hiring process. And whenever you’re within the continuation of employments like guys, we have checklist procedures. We’ve got to get done in the store. You know, you can’t just be on the floor. And you know, some puts gets put back. You’ve got to make sure that’s back. And originally how it is. And it’s especially in a retail environment like you’ve got. I mean, everything is wide open. It’s not like you’ve got, you know. Stacks of backup that people are looking at. It’s everything’s client-facing. And it’s all gotta be presented in a way. That’s nice crisp and polished. Correct. Yeah. So how do y’all manage? Because you’re essentially running two businesses. You’ve got the backpacker. The retail side of things. And you’ve got to travel. Look at the travel business. Correct. Talk us through some of that. What’s the travel side and tail? So the travel side. So we just do ski trips. Um we.
We have weed, ski, we travel about 1,000 clients a year. So, yeah. So we we start about this time of year will, right now, we’re in the thick of our busiest week of the year is Mardi. Gras also will have anywhere from four to five hundred clients travel in the week of Mardi Gras and then the remaining 500 clients are typically traveling spread out throughout the season. So, Mardi Gras is our biggest week. We’re really well-known for it. We Charter aircrafts, and we sit and that way. Our customers have a direct flight nonstop to the mountains. People love that. Especially in today’s travel world so much so much gets. Can’t so many flights get cancelled and you’re able to say instead of being at the airport at 5:30 a.m. for a 7:30 flight
Um we’re able to say okay we’re going to take off at 11:00 you know get there but 9:30 I’ll get your bags on the plane or you know check in and get your bags and security and we’re going to load up and we’re going to take off at 11 and we’re there and it’s a little bit more relaxed and then the chances of delays and canceled flights and things like that is a big weight lifted off the class especially when they’re traveling with families. So that’s a big thing that we do for Mardi Gras. And we’re really well known for that and we have a lot of repeat clients on those trips. And then the throughout the season we had so that team, Caroline and Reagan. They do a great job of managing and providing customers. They know the properties that are customers, like they know where they like to stay, they know where they are.
What kind of so if they want delivery rentals if they want to check in in store and save some money? And so we have all these things kind of dialed in. So it’s very easy for our customers to call us and pick up the phone and we take care of all those details Forum. So have you always done the plane chartering? I mean, that’s kinda it’s not a it’s not a small thing. Not to do. It’s not. It’s it’s ah, it’s fun. It’s like a big party bus in the sky. So everybody everybody knows each other. Um. You know it’s it’s just it’s this fun. It’s like a it’s just a different kind of feeling. So it’s it’s not a small thing to pull off. But we’ve been doing it for so long that we kind of have the the secret recipes. So right now, Caroline and Reagan are working every day to prepare all the boarding passes and prepare all the customer pack is we’ve got customers coming in to pick up their ski trip information about what they’re going to expect on their trip for Mardi Gras.
And then and then as soon as they get back, they’ll start booking customer customers. For the next year, we start booking well over a year in advance for for the next ski season. So we’ve already got people book for 23 24, that’s terrible. Yeah, so and that’s always kind of been an element of y’all’s company has been that travel side of things and making sure. I mean, are you are y’all planning every single detail for them? Or is it here are some? I’m locations we know is great. Here, are some places to stay. What is What’s involved in that process? Um, well, the first thing is for customers. We want to take out the guest work, you know? It’s kind of like, do if you Google Disney Vacation it’s like how many different websites and blogs can tell you what to do for Disney. It’s the same thing with skiing but it’s actually even harder because when you Google search skeet family ski trip, every ski area is going to tell you that they’re the best. Whereas Disney there’s only one Disney right.
So every skier is going to tell you that they’re the best family vacation for reasons, XY and seeing and we know how to cut through all the stuff we’ve had. We know I mean we’ve sent we send so many customers ski and that we know what customers love what they hate. We know that if you go to a high elevation destination from Louisiana, somebody from your family, you okay, I’m good. Yeah, so if that makes sense of the show for those listen, I just fell out of the chair. I don’t know if it’ll make it imma cut, but if it does, that’s great. So you never know what’s gonna happen while filming. So anyways, so you were saying about how the number of clients you’ve taken, you’ve kind of figured out what is the places to go for family vacations and kind of cut through some of that.
Overhyped meant if you will at these spots. Yeah. We do a good job of asking the customer. What it is. They’re looking for what their budget is where they’re trying to go and we can cut through a lot of the. I guess distractions and red tape that come up. I’m just trying to plan it on your end. There’s so much information out there. So if you call and we guarantee the lowest price, so you’re not going to pay any more by booking through us and you would throw another party. So that’s kind of our value. Um that we add to it and create an experience for our customers to make it super easy. So they don’t have to worry about anything. Yeah. I mean, also if your if your first time going, I’m sure you have a lot of first-time customers are like we want to go skiing as a family. But have no idea when and where to go. What equipment to use use or anything of that nature? I mean, it’s.
It’s so much of an education side. I’m sure it absolutely is and there’s just there’s a lot of questions that have to be answered, you know, where, you know, where do you want to fly and do you have miles that you want to use? What are what airline are those miles with? We can narrow down your choices by which are which destinations cater to those are lines. You know all those little little questions, answer those things. How long do you want to go forward? That may dictate. You know if you’re only want to go for four nights, you might want to stay somewhere closer to home. You might not want to go all the way to, you know, Whistler. Canada, or something like that, four nights. Yeah. So, where is in your opinion? The best place to go skiing with a family? I mean, that’s a loaded question. I mean I’m such I’m I’ve been skiing my whole life. I really do. Love I can the best way. I know how to answer that. Question is where not to go and or where to avoid and the and
I won’t get into that. What’s the most popular place that people book? How about this two? Most popular places that we book or Snowmass and Steamboat, okay, they’re convenient to Louisiana, they’re easy relatively easy to get to and they are on and we know how to we know how to get the deals there for that are reasonable. And the and the other thing too is the crowds are low a lot of areas in Colorado, get in Utah. Get very very crowded. So you want to avoid that, you don’t want to spend 45 minutes in the lift line while you’re on vacation. And right. Which is very common. If you choose the wrong area when I feel like also the time of year during Mardi Gras, it’s going to be heavily populated with people from Louisiana because it’s kind of schools are out and it’s a time of year where not the rest of the country is going to be doing vacations of that sort. It’s specific to our area. Almost it is and it’s kind of great. You see, Louisiana people up there, you’ll run into people, you know, but
As long as um, Mardi Gras doesn’t overlap with President’s day. Then it’s gonna you’re gonna have the mountain to, you know. Louisiana’s all Louisianians offer often have the mountains of themselves, especially if they pick a destination location. That’s not outside of a big city. Yeah. I mean, it’s also like the the Disney experience during Mardi Gras. It’s like everybody from Louisiana. I feel like is going to die Disney or skiing or something during Mardi Gras season. And you just find so many people that you already know. And you can connect with and make sure that much of a better time it does. And you know what will actually help clients arrange to put their kids in ski school with kids that they know, really? It makes makes it a lot easier for family. Let’s say you’re taking your six year old scheme for the first time and you pretty much have to go to ski school. I mean that you want to go. You want to send your child to ski school because the kids have fun with it. But if you put them in a class that’s with their friends.
Because they’re on a trip with a bunch of other kids their age. It makes their experience so much more fun and better. And we see that a lot. And so, that’s a special. I mean, we have the great grandchildren of some of my dad’s first clients that are going on our trips. So, you know, it’s a very multi generational thing where we’ve been servicing these clients for generations, and it’s fun to see them grow up and enjoy and they talk to you about it and they say, grew up going on these trips. I can’t wait to bring my kids on these trips and, and experience it. And so we see a lot of Of that and it’s really great. Yeah, that mean that’s a testimony and of itself, the fact that you’ve got these people coming for Generations after Generations, clearly are doing something right, I hope so. So and then on that,
Within the travel side of things, you’re also able to kind of outfit them, if they don’t have anything. So I could have, if I was going skiing, I’ve got nothing right. I don’t know anywhere. So, if I’m calling you and I’m saying, hey, you know, Michael, I want to go skiing, y’all are going to take a, what gear, like, what’s the process of somebody to call up and say we want to go ski and kind of? How is that for a first time customer? Well, the first thing we go through is just kind of, we lay out the trip and we find out what they’re interested in and we get them all set up and ready to travel and then we’ll go through the gear process. With them. Will we do a small evening in November where we get customer? Give customers a chance to come into the stores and and speak one-on-one with the staff members and learn about what they need on their skiers checklist and all that. But, you know, we want the barrier to entry to ski and to be as easy as possible. We’re our goal is not to book. Somebody on an expensive trip, that’s out of their budget and then get them in here and selling the most expensive ski gear. We just wanted to go skiing so
I tell all of our customers like if you have friends that you can borrow stuff from and you’re you know, you’re going for the first time, um, go and borrow stuff from friends, you know, make it make it something where you don’t feel stressed out about the trip so that you can actually go out there and enjoy yourself and enjoy the trip and not feel like I’ll spend all this money on gear, whatever. And most of our customers come back. You know, because they enjoy that much. And they have a great time and there. And what’s most important is their kids have a great time. And so many of our customers say, it’s our favorite family vacation. It beats Disney. It beats to be turkeys. Have a blast. We have a blast. And so the process of getting them outfitted is just another piece of that pie of making them making his low stress and his easy for them as possible. And if they know that they don’t have to buy gear for their kids every year because they can borrow their.
You know, their cousins stuff or whatever. Then it’s we try to make sure that we open those doors for them and we also do an event in October. Where is a $99 ski outfit for those people who do want their ski outfit? So you come first 40 people in the door, get a $99 ski outfit as opposed to spend $500 on an outfit. So it again, Lower that barrier barrier to entry for customers, and what’s this date again, October, what $99 ski outfit, you gotta get on our email list. You’ll find out. Okay, good. Oh good. He’s opened a we do with the open date of LSU. Ooh football. Okay, so so and while we’re talking a lot about skiing and getting outfitted for that deal, offer anything else within the travel side or is it mostly skiing we’ve explored during summer trips. We’ve tried to do some of that. It’s a lot harder to nail down but this
The ski trip, the ski travel seems to be our Forte and we added another staff member to that side of the company, a couple of years ago. And when we did that, it freed up our ability to service our ski trip customers more. So it, you know, we weren’t able to get to a doing a summer trip because customers are so happy with having another person to help them. So we would like to do more, we do a lot of things with the kayak fishing community that separate through the retail company. Where we We do travel down to the coast and do special events in that kind of thing, but nothing as far as traveling outside of the state where we actually book travel. I mean that probably goes to show no one thing and do it. The very best you can do and be the best in the business at it. I think that is what we’re learning more and more about it for sure. So what other products or services are offered within the Backpacker itself? Of course we said as we discussed, we sell ski apparel and things like that, but we sell just outdoor
Yeah. Well we saw a lot of athleisure apparel. We saw a lot of footwear runners running shoes or trail shoes or sandals. Umm. We sell tax in paddle sports items. Ah. Paddleboards things like that. We sell ice chess we sell. Um. A lot of camping gear and backpacking. Gear. Someone that’s been picking up a lot now that people are starting travel back to Europe a lot again. So we’re starting to see some rebound in the travel business. So you know, the only thing that we don’t carry is truly, um, hunting and fishing hard goods. Um. So the there’s the things that we try and leave to the guys who carry guns and ZN arrows and those kind of things, um. But if you want to go outdoors and you don’t need a camera.
Vitamin clothing, we can get you covered. Yeah, I love that. So you all are also in the process of opening another, a third location. Yeah. So tell us a bit more about where that’s going to be and what all kind of went into that decision. So we are opening an our new location in Mandeville on the North Shore is it’s going to be a great stores. Give me a little bit smaller than our. Other two stores can be about Sony 400 square feet. We’re super excited about it. It’s going to be very close to the highway. Way. So as people are traveling to and from the coast and to and from Lake Pontchartrain and Mississippi Gulf Coast and Alabama Gulf Coast is going to be very easy for them to get in and out of and it’s also right off the causeway. So when you get off the causeway coming from New Orleans, it’s going to be right there about half a block off the highway.
So we decided to open that store because when we were shopping for new locations, we’ve been looking in the New Orleans area for quite some time, looking for the right spot and you know at the time we made the decision to build on the North Shore just felt. Right? The population up there is growing we’ve got a lot of customers who are travel business that book from the North Shore and we’ve got on and there’s a lot of and it’s really kind of If you look at it, south Louisiana, as Adventure epicenter, they’ve got some great state parks. They’ve got the st. Tammany Trace Trail. They’ve got a lot of paddling, a lot of waterways, that kind of thing. So it’s definitely a very stimulating environment for adventure and Outdoors. So y’all said y’all were shopping around for new locations at what point do you know? It’s time to open another location. Um, we felt that
We’ve had the team in place. Um. We’ve built out. We spent the last several years building out a leadership team who’s capable of handling the challenges of taking on a new location. And that was kind of one of the major decisions that made me feel comfortable with being able to make that leap of faith again. Like I said, open in Lafayette was a leap of faith. Open this new stores. A leap of faith. But ah, um, a big belief in the people in the people that work for any business. And I know we’ve got a great team and their radio. They’re up for the challenge. So and looking at like a brick-and-mortar vs a wh heavy online presence where people are more and more trying to find ease of shopping.
What I mean? I know here. You’ve got a lot of stuff where you can outfit people specifically for their needs. How is that been from an online presence versus a retail presence for you all over the years, we have an online presence and we do sell online. We do see a lot of customers using it as a shopping tool. So Google analytics gives you so much information from where customers are to where we can expect to see them coming from. So we get a lot of good information but customers still like to shop in the store. And when we have when we’re able to provide them, exciting product and keep our shelves full of the stuff that they really want. And then we’re able to then they’re able, then they’re interested in coming in and trying it on in person. We still put a lot of emphasis on making sure that our website is up to up, to up, to speed with the inventory that we carry and that it has all the information that our customers need to shop effectively. But
And we do have challenges for sure. I mean I don’t want to say challenges but online competition isn’t going anywhere. We know that it’s here to stay, but sometimes it’s good to show customers that it’s been for a long time. 15 years ago online was perceived as this place to find cheap, a load find cheaper lower prices same product at lower prices but I’ll all those kind of going away. It’s actually showed customers that were fair just because you shop. Doesn’t mean you’re going to get ripped off and just because you shop, local, you are just because you shop local, you have to pay sales tax online just as you do in store. So a lot of those things have kind of subsided make those making the idea of being able to feel it and touch it before you buy it.
Much more appealing. The other thing too is how many times you order something online and you. And it’s not what you expected because you didn’t touch or feel it. And then you forget to send it back. It sits in your closet and six months goes binding like Al-qaeda. Send it back. You know. I mean, there’s a lot of that. And people kind of get burned by that. And I think the idea of touching field is still very prominent. And what we do know a hundred percent, especially in like the sizing of things like we just ordered a new pair of shoes for our son. And they showed up online and we’ve put them on his feet like he can’t fit in this sudden work. The sizes inaccurate. So you know, had gone in store. You could actually try it on and make sure it fits and then get it right then. And there, as opposed to waiting for a couple of days. And I think, especially since covert. And I’m sure you all have experienced this. People are now wanting to go back in the stores for other human interaction, or just actually being able to again, touch and feel the product.
Instead of having to order online and wait for it, and you’re ordering potentially based off of somebody, reviewing it online. I mean, it’s definitely been. I mean we saw shortly after we opened, after we close for covid, we close for covid, for about 45 days. And after we open, we solve customers continually interested in coming in store. I mean it was not, it never people were looking for an outlet to get get out and and see the world. And I think that that’s still the case, I think people want to be out and about and doing And so anything to is that we, you know, we’ve got a great team, our guys love to help customers and you got to love to help customers provide an experience. If, you know, you want to make it. And that’s something that we pride ourselves in is known the gear. And
Having fun outfitting customers and I think that’s going to be a huge element continuously happening for brick-and-mortar locations is that level of expertise and a level of customer experience. I mean what you’ve built here, the inside of the store feels like you’re in a lodge, you know. It feels like you’re in a ski lodge or some type of Outdoors environment that you’ve taken and harness with in your store. So now you’re given an experience and I mean how important is that when you’re hiring new team members and training them to have an emphasis on, On the shopping experience itself. It is we have a what we call store grade process where we go through and we check off every week to make sure that they’re upholding, the standards that we want our customers to experience. And and that’s a big part of it. We know that’s, that’s huge. And the big box stores in the stores in the malls. They’re not going to be able to pull that off.
Yeah. I mean, they just you can’t, especially in the different departments you’ve got. You can’t have like one person know everything. As we were kind of talking beforehand. It’s important to have a team that knows. And can specialize in a certain area that they know what they’re telling the customer and it can be accurate. And the customer feels confident in their decision making. And that’s ultimately what the sales rep on. The floor is supposed to be. Give that customer confidence. So when they walk out, they know made a good purchase. It’s going to be exactly what I need. And there’s no doubt in their mind what they got. Yeah. And even if they get home and they have any kind of second guessing, they can pick up the phone and call the salesperson. We’re happy to help them solve their issue. Yeah. And so we actually got introduced by a past. Guess Brock Miller with um, like custom cakes. Also I was looking around in the store and I’ll do some like fitting outfitting of that nature as well. Within the backpacker we do. Yeah. We do a lot of ah wins. We’d build these custom.
Fishing setups for kayaks and allow customers to pick their kayak and outfit at the way they want. Especially with kayak fishing now and technology. And everything will do everything from a high-resolution GPS, depth finder to stand up bars where they’re able to actually put their fishing rods on a bar. That’s mounted. And they can stand up on the kayak and will re-position hatches will put decking on the boat that matches their tastes. So we can do all kinds of stuff we can. Input power poles, which is an electronic anchor. There’s all kinds of cool stuff we can do in those kayaks that crazy. I just how far Advanced the technology has come for something like that. And I think of a sport. It’s been, I mean have what have y’all seen? That kind of Skyrocket over the last few years. I mean, you know, when I took over the business in 2006, Chi, fishing was just becoming a thing and people were taking these River kayaks and figuring out like I can access areas of the marsh.
In Louisiana that you can’t get to on foot because the ground is too soft and you can’t get to in a boat because the water is too shallow and they figured out like how just the capability of these things. And we saw its car rack Skyrocket from about 2007 until about 2015, where we saw participation in kayak fishing tournaments of these online forms. When people chatting online was just a New Concept from we’ve got two tournaments where there’s 40 people and then we go to the same tournament in 2015, where there’s 400, people is this, it grew and the community around, it is just astronomical and the and the technology and the efficiency of the boats built. I mean a lot of kayak company, started divesting and their traditional River and sea kayaks and started investing in these Coastal fishing kayaks and the amount, and the average price of a car, Guy went up fivefold.
Because people and people were interested in paying it because they wanted to be wanting to have the best of the best experience when they’re efficient out of them. So yeah, we’ve seen it change in a big way and Rod, the ballcock fishing tournament is the largest coefficient tournament in the world. And it’s right here in grand Isle. And we were, um, fortunate enough to make friends with Danny Ray, who founded that tournament in twenty in two thousand and nine and his wife, Kristin Rae, and we’ve been involved ever since. So what? Shell’s level of involvement with them. With what? With efficient rodeo. Oh. We’re still one of the top sponsors. Okay. So you all go out there like a tent and all that stuff always said, oh yeah. And we kind of and sense of Danny Ray. His ah, step back from Rod. The bowl and cca has taken over his wife. Kristin. Unfortunately the coefficient community and Danny lost her to cancer in two thousand and seven sixteen or seventeen.
And so, he stepped back after that, and CCA Louisiana, took it over, and they’ve done a great job with it. So, we’re still very much involved in communicating with CC, on a regular B CC, a on a regular basis about the kayak fishing tournament, making sure it goes, well, making sure that we’re helping boost the participation and being involved. And so we’re we see it from the ground up every year. More or less not to the CC, not to the level, the CCA is involved because they do so much to make it happen, but we’re right along. Side of them. I love that. So I also notice you’ve got like a backpack or Suburban. That’s y’all. It’s just like an iconic piece. What’s the story behind the Suburban? That’s the funny. That’s funny. You ask that. So there’s a two-fold part of it that I was, I don’t know. Probably
Seven or eight years ago. I was on the coast in Mississippi Gulf Coast. There was a paddleboard shop and they had a Jeep, like a big ol, like Jeep CJ7 or something like that from the 80s with paddleboard stacked on the roof. I was like, that’s that’s pretty cool. I should look into that. So I started looking into Old vehicles and old SE old old four-wheel-drive. Open-top SUVs aren’t cheap online. Even when you go to look at them now and hopefully refurbished know, even if they’re not fully refurbished, you know, you can get a rust bucket for fifteen thousand dollars that you got to put another 20 into it. So, I started shopping around and, and I stumbled across a white 1974 suburban. And when my dad started the business, he was
Doing kayak or canoe rentals with my mom’s nineteen fifties Puyo, which is a European car. At the time he would pull a canoe trailer to and from work every day with a wooden sign on the Sokak Reynolds. So in nineteen seventy four he was like, I can’t or canoe, Reynolds. I’m sorry. I can’t keep doing this. So he bought a nineteen seventy four white. So urban. So I stumbled upon when I was shopping for Cds, a white, nineteen, seventy four suburban and just spoke to me because the original suburban he had with the backpacker logos hand-painted on the side. And um, it. It had a roof. But ah. So when I was looking for a chop top V or a roof last vehicle, I found this white suburban that just spoke to me immediately. And I was like, I gotta get that I gotta buy that one. So I bought it. And um, it’s been about eight months in the body shop where they chop the top off built a roll cage. Um. And?
Polish it up and repainted it. And now, it looks like what it is now. So it’s, it’s a fun vehicle to have, I like to drive it around. Yeah, yeah, I’m a Jeep guy. Myself, and I, every time I see you driving around town and I think I’m like, man, that’s a, that’s a cool ride. Yeah, it’s fun. It’s got three rows in it. We take it to LSU football games, we tailgate in it will take it to the coast and all that. So it’s it’s definitely fun and it’s also cool that it’s got that significance of being the same year and make and model of what your dad originally used. I mean, I think that’s It’s a really cool component of the story and itself. It is in my brother and I always dreamed of taking his Suburban because he had it until the late 90s and he was like you can either do something with it or I’m going to get rid of it and he ended up trading it for $75 worth of firewood. Wait yeah. Run it was running with the time. It was running but it only went in reverse.
Okay. Alright, so $75 for the firewood for the Suburban. Yeah, basically, he was saying I’ll trade you firewood. If you take it off, my property will fail. And so he got his $75 worth of firewood and we lost it forever but we brought it back a little bit better and better than ever. So did you initially like try to find the original one? I didn’t even bother it was it was not, it was not really exactly the way that I would have wanted it and I found this other. The one that was more along the lines of what I wanted, it was a, it was a four-wheel drive, it was stick shift, it was had a bigger motor. It had all those little things and went forward and it went forward. Yeah, exactly. So I love that. It’s like it’s almost become an iconic branding element of your store.
For the most part. Like on your website, y’all. Your whole team is standing in the picture of it. It’s it’s pretty cool to have it kind of. I mean, is it your mask out of the backpacker? Almost at this point. Yeah. Probably sir. I mean, people love it. And we used to park it outside the building. But it was getting so much wear and tear from the weather and just being next to the next Jefferson highway that is now so cleaned up and sitting in my garage shit home. Okay. I was about to ask. Is I’ve driven by many times and the downpour thunderstorm in life. There’s the poultry, and that thing just has to be nonexistent at all. It’s it got pretty. Beat up. It’s got old vinyl seats in the sun took their number on it. But so that’s when I saw the clean it up and leave it inside. So it’s in much. It’s in great shape. And I mean, it’s not perfect. It’s by no means restored, but.
For what we needed to do. It’s perfect. It’s still a 74 Suburban with no top on it. Like there’s so many so far in expectation standpoint that you can go with a vehicle of that age. Yeah. And I mean, actually, I’ll take it on the highway. I’ll load it up in the summertime. We grew up in Pass. Christian, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast and so we still take our kids there a lot. So I’ll take it over there and met and leave it over there for a couple of months and drive it around there, and I can drive it on the interstate. So it’s not a not a difficult thing to drive. It still runs. At 70 miles an hour. So how loud is it? Because I had a 94 Jeep that I would take on the interstate with no doors your top and they’ve got it was a loud experience on the interstate. If I wear my ear pods, I can call on the phone.
Really. Yeah. And it won’t have liked to win. That’s impressive. No it’s got a windshield you know he’s got a windshield but like Yeah The Noise whipping around that windshield. It’s not too bad. But yeah it’s got full doors. So that’s a help. Yeah, it’s I mean it’s loud but it’s not, it’s something fully. Wow. So having three locations in different cities. What is the kind of the ecos? It they have the environment like, between the three stores with us, being here in the Baton Rouge location. And then going move in tonight, ad in a local. Creation and Lafayette, and the Mandeville area. How is that environment that business environment, differ from the Baton Rouge sing, you know, spend a lot of time, trying to personally, maintain culture, and taking it upon myself to try and be.
Try and I guess generate that area in culture is very important. But I realised that you can’t do it yourself. You know, you’ve got a you’ve got to start somewhere. So we’ve actually got a leadership team, and they help manage those that environment and help, um, keep everybody in communication. But it’s it’s definitely had an evolving process of of figuring out what the best way is to manage that ecosystem. But we’ve kind of got dialed in. We’ll see what the addition of the third store. If it stays that way, I’m I have good confidence like I told you earlier. I have a lot of faith in our team. We’ve great team members. Um. So there’s um, so I believe that we’ll be able to use what we’ve built over the last several years and.
And stimulate that ecosystem throughout the next decade. And that the element of the component of team members is so important, especially in a retail space. Like, they’re always dealing with clients and customers. And once you get to the multiple steps, like as a business owner, you’re kind of get to the point where your hands off, but they still got to deliver the expectations of the mission. That was originally set out whenever your dad open it whenever you took over. So it’s a lot of faith as an entrepreneur to put in the employees. To continue carrying that Legacy almost over the years, and now on Cross multiple stores, and it’s, I’m sure it’s a challenge day in and day out to make sure that the new hires can fit the team, well that you’ve already built so beautifully over the years. Yeah, it’s a big, it’s a big part of the process. And
You know, we believe firmly and what we’re doing here. And what we, and the experience that we offer our customers, our customers, they love to have fun outdoors. And we need to make it as easy for them as possible and if they come in and have a rough experience, then we know that that’s going to make their enjoyment of the outdoors even more difficult. So we need to, so we have to stand by our values first and that comes first and if an employee doesn’t fit those values and then if an He doesn’t want to show up on time or be Dependable when they start with our team, then they’re going to, you know, have an impact on the team that doesn’t help. It’s, it doesn’t help our customers enjoy the outdoors, right? And we have to stand by that. And at the end of the day, that’s the goal is making sure that people are getting outdoors and getting doing activities. They weren’t doing before they walked in.
You know it’s not to just try to fill. An immediate need is trying to build a long term hobby or a longterm passion that people can have when they’re experiencing the outdoors. Yeah. And you’d be amazed with selling them the right stove when they take their camp and their family camp, and for the first time will do for that child LDS experience when they go camping in there surfer in there serve fresh eggs on their camping trip. And they’re like, wow, this is amazing. We can cook outdoors, you know. And you know, Daz got hot chocolate force in the morning when we wake up and it’s cold outside. You know, I mean, those kind of things matter. A hundred percent. And if you don’t have the right gear, it can quickly turn into a miserable experience. I mean, if you my my brothers went Elk hunting in Colorado last year and it had they not had the right sleeping bags. One of my brothers bought the right gear and other brothers like I’ve I’m gonna use it. I’ve already got. Yeah. It was like a ten fifteen year old, sleeping bag. And after the first night of them sleeping outside, they quickly went and found.
With it within her, their location is, I don’t care what it costs. I just want the right piece of equipment that’s going to keep me warm and eight degree Mountain weather. Yeah and sometimes you don’t sometimes people don’t even make it that far. You know, they have one night out there with a bad experience and it’s like, no, we’re going home. We’re done never doing this again. You know, you hear that a lot and so we got to make sure that our customers are well prepared for that if we want to make sure that they love the outdoors, and as much as we do. Yeah. That’s I put my wife through one bad tent camping experience. And after that she said, I’m not going until you buy the right stuff. So, the next year, we had a nice big inflatable, queen size mattress, pillow. She had blankets, everything. I was like, dude, just like your bed at home. I’m like the here you go. Now it’s she is like, this is a form of glamping, but you got it, you know, we got the right stuff and I was much more enjoyable. The second time, exactly. It makes a big difference, for sure. Yeah. And it’s also a how many goes back to that that education. You don’t know what you don’t know. So
Someone’s going planning, a camping trip and I think I need a tent sleeping bags and I’m good. It’s like well you really need a whole bunch of other gear depending on what you are, how long are you going for you? Going for just an overnight? Yeah, maybe I’ll get by with that but do you have proper coolers? You have proper Fire Starting equipment. Do you have everything you need or you going to try to rough and tough it and figure things out. And at that point you’re just trying to survive. You’re not like camping and enjoying what you’ve got. You’re putting more stress on yourself. You’d be surprised. How many people want to try and figure it out on the truck? I want to try and figure it out and they you know, is up being a tough experience form. So do y’all have customers that will come in and describe the experience? They’re trying to go for and
Not purchase something. Say no. We don’t want to have that. And then coming back after that trip and feeling, okay, whatever you told me initially to buy, I want to fill that, oh, we see a little bit of that. I mean, I think the, you know, there’s certain checkboxes if somebody comes in on a budget or they maybe they’re not quite ready to fully invest, there’s certain boxes you want to check. Right. Like you want to like, OK, a you’re not. You’re going this weekend. It’s not predicted to rain. You can get away with that Walmart tent. But make sure you get a comfortable sleeping pad and a warm sleeping bag. You know that those kind of things like. And then the second time you go when it rains and that Walmart tent Lee leaks which we know it’s going to do then you’re gonna change your mind and come in and get the right gear. But you’re there. Search some things you can do to make sure that your experiences is positive by not breaking the bank. You know, maybe you don’t need to come in and spend fifteen hundred dollars on all new gear. But you come in and spend.
Couple of hundred and get and check off a few boxes. I’ve had a mini, a Walmart, 10 experiences. And it we quickly it was so bad. We brought we had a tent where like, oh, it’s the old family 10, it should be fine. And then one of my friends, like let’s just bring a tarp just in case we are very thankful for that. Tarp when about 10:00 at night, it started downpouring. And we had quickly, we found out there was holes in the tent for sure. We we were blue tarp in a tent. Wow, damping just stay dry. So been there done that many times the right gear is is crucial for a good fun experience. It does. It makes all the difference last thing you need is a cold wet night on the hardwood on on the ground. A lot of people have had that trust me that we here at all. So what is I want? I’m curious to know if have you ever had a bad camping experience and if so what’s like your worst camping experience?
I don’t know. You know, we had so many good experiences as kids growing up camping and even when the situation wasn’t perfect, we could, we were able to come up with a solution, probably. I mean, really probably the toughest one was I went to Camp when I was a kid at a camp up in Alabama and about halfway through the two-week Camp stent. We were there were like, okay we’re going to drive y’all up to North Carolina and we’re going to go whitewater, rafting. Was great. The grafting was a blast but we had, we were camping that night and they pull out these, you know, Sports Unlimited or whatever tents out of boxes and set them all up and, and the counselors didn’t care what we were doing. They were like, okay, set up your tent, whatever, and it was on a slope
And it rained all night and the bottom and the bottom into the tent filled up with water. And the whole tent was leaking. There was no getting around it. And everybody was soaking wet and there was no sleep in that night. I mean, that was probably like one of the toughest experiences ever because and for me, I grew up with great camping experiences. So so it was hard for me to ah, embrace that moment. The way that you know some people might have. But it didn’t stop me from because I knew the difference. Yeah. I was about to say, it’s hard to see somebody think that they know what they’ve got under control. When you’ve been through the Swinney exact same situation hundreds of times and you’re just like having to sit back and okay, I’ma let you take charge and let you do what you’re gonna do. But.
It’s going to be rough. Well, you know, when you’re 35 year old Camp manager or 40 Year, Old Camp manager, and you hear 7th grader trying to tell you that that’s wrong. They don’t they don’t bite into that very easily. Imagine if you were to say something I probably wouldn’t it. Probably what are you saying? Yeah, exactly. And the last thing you’re gonna say is, well, I’ve been on hundreds of camping trip to my family. I probably know a little bit, but you just kind of sit back and let it happen. Yeah. And it’s a valuable learning experience. Head is so As we kind of start to wrap up the show, we have a set list of questions that we like to ask every guest. The first one is what is something did as a kid? You wish you could still do today you know this probably gonna sound ridiculous but I’m I’m kind of still of a kid at heart and I don’t
Stop doing the things that I enjoy, you know. So I don’t know, I kind of enjoy being an adult, an adult, so I’d like that, I love that answer. Yeah, fact you’re still doing everything you did is I love that. That’s, that’s a good, a good trait to maintain. Yeah. I mean it’s my hobbies have gotten a little more expensive and my hobbies have gotten a little bit more demanding, but, you know, I still get to go ski and I still spend time on my boat. I take my kids fishing. So the things that I enjoyed as a kid, I’m doing as an adult, so love that. So what are three lessons? You’ve learned along the way?
Um people are super important. Um. They’re the people around you are, um, are so great to work with. And best people is definitely something that we um, practice here. And that we we really enjoy the people that we work with. So that’s one thing that I’ve learned that I didn’t bite into early on as much as I should have. Um. But that’s definitely one thing that, um, I’ve learned the other thing is to that there’s some some things you just gotta let go. You know you can’t do everything yourself. And if you try, you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. Um that’s definitely something else that I’ve had to learn. And I’ve lived a better life because of that. Um I think. Um.
lastly is you know that I’ve learned is just don’t give up, you know, there’s no matter what No matter which direction you go lights, going to throw you challenges. There’s always going to be hard moments. There’s always going to be easier moments. You’re going to have the wind at your back. Sometimes, you’re gonna have the head winds, but if you give up and you try and Do something different. You’re just going to get, put yourself in another position to challenge. That’s going to bring the same level of that’s going to test your personality and test, your will, no matter which direction, no matter which direction you go. So if you maintain your course, you’re going to hit challenges, no matter what. So stick with it tackle, your challenges except that that’s how life is and and and if you can do that, then the head wound then when you get the tail wind is going to be even better. Absolutely, I love that. So What is something you love about? Baton Rouge? I love raising my family here.
You know, I love spending time with my family here, I love, you know, we were we’re pretty well located to the things we like to do, but we love our friends, we love the community and it hasn’t in Baton Rouge, has never stopped us from being ourselves as a family and, and doing the things we love. Yeah, that’s semi look. I’m right in the same boat. As you got a kid, raising a family. Ali here and it’s it’s Saturday. We were able to go with him 30 minutes and do anything we wanted to do. Yeah. We’re having to go to a park at lunch. Go have a picnic and was like, all within 20, 30 minutes of drive time from where we live here in Baton Rouge. Yeah, that was fun and exciting thing to do. I wish there was a ski mountain, 30 minutes outside of town but, you know, that’s the only thing that’s missing. I don’t think we have a mountain in the state that would be adequate to ski on. I mean, you know, if we got enough snow, the levy would be adequate, this is true. It’d be a very short order on here, really short around. Yeah.
So um, for the final question? What can I do to help you? You know, appreciate what you’re doing, talking to local business owners. Remind the community that, um, that we’re still out there and that we exist and that we’re ah, we’re working hard every day to make sure that our customers have a great experience. And that, um, is still a relevant part of our community. So I think what you’d you know. What you’re doing is great. And keep doing it. Absolutely will. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Thanks for having your time. I’ve got a wonderful space here and I’m excited to see the new stores opening and what. That’s gonna look like in this. The progression introductory, the backpackers on in general. Yeah. Appreciate the site. So thank you. And thank you. Everybody else for listening or watching whatever platform you consume. I’m in us on. If we leave in the fall. That’s gonna be hilarious. And if not, we’ll post it somewhere. So thank you so very much for tuning in. Thank you again for Michael coming on about the backpacker. If you’re interested in our ski trip, we’re gonna link their website and a way to contact them in the show notes. So check that out there and also a big. Thank you to the wonderful folks and sponsors that make the show possible.
And every week, we’re going to have a little bit more about them right after this. So your home for $399 flat fee with falaya no seriously. Falaya will list your home on the MLS and help you get all the way to the closing table for as little as a 399 flat feet. Our online platform is insanely easy to use and will save you thousands. If you’re thinking about selling your home in 2022 and want to keep more of your hard-earned equity in your pocket, you need to check out falaya, falaya real estate. Reimagined. Thank you all. So very much for listening to this episode of The Patty G show brought to you by government Taco. They’re located on the corner of Government Street and Jefferson Highway J is always slinging up a new Taco of the month. So if you’re a frequent or to government taco, let us know in the comments what you thought about this month’s Taco of the month. If you’re not a frequenter, maybe trying out this month’s Taco might just convert. You big thanks over to them a government Taco, for making a Patty G show possible.
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